Grow and Capture the Flavor of Fresh Herbs

Early this spring, I checked my outdoor herb garden to see what survived the winter. Many herbs are perennial and come back each spring. To my surprise, my kitchen garden was alive and growing! Parsley, rosemary, chive, sage, and mint all came back!

Herbs are easy to grow and do well in pots if you don’t have a space for planting. If you relish DIY projects you can build your own raised garden box. Many of my friends start growing herbs from seeds, which is less expensive and takes longer. I like to purchase small herb plants from my local gardening store, so I can reap the benefits from these tasty and nutritious greens sooner.       

After expanding my herb garden, the last few seasons I learned a few tips to share from my more experienced herb-gardening friends. Most herbs love full sun (at minimum 6-7 hours a day). Find a sunny spot in your yard to plant your garden or position your raised bed or pots. Also, add a soil or potting mix to your soil, which will help keep the soil well drained. Don’t forget to water your herbs daily, especially if your herbs are in pots. Potted soil tends to dry up quickly and you don’t want to pre-maturely ‘dry’ your herbs. Last but not least, remove flowers forming on your herbs. Flowers use up the herb’s energy and removing gives the energy back to the leaves; the part of the herb we use most often. Also, flowering herbs may lose some of their flavor and taste bitter.

I love using herbs when preparing my favorite foods and beverages. Herbs add flavor and eye appeal to my meals and fill my kitchen with mouth-watering aromas. Nutritionally, herbs contain similar nutrients found in green leafy vegetables like vitamins A, C, and K and polyphenols; which are plant substances that provide antioxidants and reduce inflammation in our bodies. Using flavorful herbs can also cut down the amount of salt and fat, making your meals healthier. Below, are some of my ‘go to’ herb parings:

  • Stuff  a chicken cavity with lemon and a combination of sage, rosemary, and thyme sprigs. Make a mixture of olive oil, pepper, and a dash of salt and brush it on the outside of the chicken. Bake it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • Make a rub of finely chopped rosemary, chopped garlic (fresh or in the jar), and pepper. Mix it with olive oil, enough to form a paste and rub it on all sides of a pork tenderloin. Bake or grill to an internal temperature of 155 degrees.
  • For refreshing botanical-infused beverages, add a rosemary sprig and a lime wedge,  fresh mint and strawberry slices, or basil and a watermelon wedge to tap or sparkling water served over crushed ice.
  • For an extra flavor punch in salads, toss snipped lemon thyme or lemon balm, chopped chives, parsley, basil or oregano.

Speaking of snipping, one of my most used kitchen tool in the summer is my herb scissors. You can purchase herb scissors at kitchen stores or online. A pair of craft scissors designate as ‘herb scissors’ also works well. Keep them sharp and wash with soap and water after each use. 

I have an abundance of herbs and found another use for them. I filled mason jars with water and a variety of fresh herbs and placed them around my house, including my bathrooms. What an amazing aroma to smell when I walked into my house!

Stay tuned for part two of this blog, Capture the Flavor with Spices!

Health Benefits of Gardening

Often for this blog, I get to write posts about physical activity (the benefits, how to get started, or fun ways to be active). It’s definitely no secret that I am a lover of physical activity and I occasionally try to convince my coworkers to participate in physical activity challenges offered by our human resources office. Recently, I was talking with a coworker about one of these challenges and she let me know that she didn’t think she would be much help to the team. Knowing she is an avid gardener, I reminded her that time spent in the garden would be considered physical activity and she was surprised. Which got me thinking, do many people not think of gardening as being physically active? 

Photo by Rachel Claire on

So, for today, I thought we could talk a bit about gardening and all the wonderful benefits it can bring to your life! To start, gardening typically involves movement and is great for the body. Being in the garden might include bending, stretching, walking, lifting, and a variety of other movements that are beneficial for your body and your health. Also, gardening is often done outside, so it gives us the opportunity to soak up some sunlight and increase our Vitamin D levels. Finally, for many people, gardening is much more enjoyable than going to the gym. And since it is fun, people are more likely to do it. So, gardening can be an easy and fun way to increase the amount of time you spend being physically active. 

The benefits of gardening don’t stop with your body, they extend to your mind as well! Studies have shown that people who see and spend time around plants and gardens (often called green space) experience less anxiety, depression, and stress. In fact, one study found that daily gardening lowered dementia risk by 36%. Finally, AARP mentions that gardening can be a great way to reduce loneliness. Participating in community gardens or other group gardening programs can help people feel connected to others. This can be a great way to help your community and get to know others. 

Photo by Uriel Mont on

So, what can you do with this information? Well, if you think you might like gardening, try it out in small ways. Get a houseplant, start an indoor herb garden, and see if you enjoy tending those things. If you have a little bit more space, you could consider moving on to a window box, hanging basket, or small container garden (there are lots of tutorials online for this sort of thing). It may not be an option for everyone, but you could even plant a large outdoor garden with whatever vegetables you and your family enjoy, if you have the time and space. You may or may not be aware, but you can even get involved with your local extension office! Extension offices across the country operate Master Gardener programs. You could go to one of the classes they offer and learn more about gardening. Or, you could complete the training to become a Master Gardener yourself, and join a community of folks who love to garden and teach others about gardening!

The level to which you participate in gardening is totally up to you, but if gardening is something you like or think you might like, find ways to incorporate it into your life. It could have a host of benefits beyond the beautiful flowers or tasty things you grow.